Don't forget to visit Kaylia's Official Website where you can get information about Kaylia's upcoming events, and learn more about her publications.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

I'll admit it. I love fantasy TV shows.

Buffy: RIP.... you paved the way and set the bar so high....

Dollhouse... you were awesome and gone too soon....


Apparently, the masses are starting to give fantasy a bit more of a go. Yeah, Supernatural has been on for forever (a few seasons too many, but with the eye candy, we don't complain too much). And yes there are (too many) vampire and the like shows out there, but what about original fantasy?

NBC has Grimm (excellent show!)
ABC has Once Upon a Time and soon the Wonderland spin off.

Enter Fox with Sleepy Hollow! (Mondays)

I was ready to not like this show. I was sure we would have contrived polts, repetitive fish-out-ofwater jokes, magic as plot spackle, and really, the Rip Van Winkle addition to the Headless Horseman story? Why? Plus, could the show have enough story to last a whole season?

I'm glad to report that I was wrong.

Yeah, the show is a bit silly and the acting can be a bit hamfisted at times (it is the pilot afterall), but on the whole the writers have done a decent job of making the characters likeable (if not wholy beliveable... that will come later with character development one hopes) and of making the story make as much sense as a story featuring a Rip Van Winkle meets National Treasure sort of scenario with a shaggy haired hero who must stop the coming apocalypse by defeating a headless zombie who can somehow still hear people. There are also witches and the hint that George Washington wasn't just fighting for our freedom from British taxation and tyranny.

I wouldn't say it was a rollicking good time, but it was fun. The saving grace is that the cast seems to know how crazy it all sounds and the influx of humor. Go ahead, watch the preview. If you don't crack a smile, then skip the show... I have a feeling the humor and the occasional tension fraught deep in the dark forest scenes will be what carries this show forward.

I also have to point out that Crane is played by Tom Mison (a British relatively unknown)is pretty darn hunky.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Patience Stone

The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

I got this book because I saw a preview for the upcoming movie. A wise person once said that books and the movies adapted from them are like comparing apples with apple pie, but it has been a while since I did a side by side comparison so I figured why not.

This review will focus solely on the book.

I had a hard time reading this book. It is short... very short and the writing style is crisp and unfettered with too many details. In fact, it is downright sparse in terms of details which is part of its charm. And still, it was hard to read because the subject matter is hard to face.

I'm a middle class liberal minded American woman fiercely loved by my partner and supported by my family.
I have nothing besides gender and motherhood in common with the protagonist of this book.

Which is why I felt I must read it.

I was prepared to be dismayed. I was prepared to be bothered. I was prepared to be taught a leson.

I wasn't prepared to have all three things happen so smoothly.

Rahimi has a beautiful grasp of poetry. Even though the novel is translated, it flows like water... it doesn't stop, it waits for no one, it pushes through blockages of judgement and wariness.

This book moved me beyond my expectations.

Set in one single room and told from an almost God-like place of indifference, we see the final days of a man's life as his wife cares for him. But it is not his story, it is hers. It is her voice that breaks the silence and tells us of her life... it is her plight and her history that carry the story forward. It is her body that suffers as he dies and her torrent of words that can not be silenced in the almost silent room.

By being sparse on the details, Rahimi draws our attention to what really matters: her story in her own words.

The ending was shocking and yet unavoidable. The writing was exquisite and the plot, though limited by its own contrivances, moved along and took me on a journey of discovery.

I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013



If you love Egypt history, if you are interested in the battle between monotheism and polytheism that shaped the infrastructure and the social customs of ancient Egypt.... well, this book probably isn't for you.

If you are moderately interested in those sort of things in the peripheral, but like a story with a very clear "good guy" and "bad guy" that is loosely based on a few scattered archaeological finds... this book might be just what you want to read!

In short, this book is what I would typically call Lit Fluff... except that it is rather too long for such a designation. It is, however, a relatively quick read for its girth because the writing, while a tad prolific, isn't weighty.

In short, Nefertiti is the story of, you guessed it, Nefertiti as shown through her rival and sister Muty. There is a rise to power, some actions taken because of hubris, karmic retribution, and a whole lot of Muty sighing in frustration as Nefertiti is a horrible person who does horrible short sighted things.

I'm not sure if the characters lack depth because the author is basing them off some very skimpy historical data or if the author was just lacking imagination, but the end result is a forgettable book about what could have been unforgettable characters.

My advice? If you happen to ge the book for free or cheap at a used book store and you have a plane ride in your future, why not. Otherwise, there are more compelling better written books out there.

But that's just me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

By Matthew Dicks

It has been a while since a book grabbed me by the throat / heart and refused to let me go until I had finished it.

I’m happy to report that this is that sort of book.

Don’t be fooled by the subject matter sounding corny or childish. Imaginary friends are, after all, a fairly universal theme in childhood. Dicks, however, finds a way to tell this story in a way that is anything but childish… it is rich and powerful full of literary gems and haunting moments of sentimentality.

In a word, the book is amazing.

Budo is our narrator. He is the imaginary friend of an autistic boy. He stays “alive” by being needed by Max, warning him about bullies, helping to calm him down, etc. But like all imaginary friends, he is confined to the way he was when Max created him… so he can walk through doors, but not walls, he can talk to Max but no one else, and he can’t move all that fast.

The two of them are the best of friends and while other imaginary friends are at risk for fading away when their child friend outgrows them, Budo is confident that Max will need him for a long time yet.

And then something horrible happens and Budo has to decide if he loves Max enough to help him grow up.

I won’t ruin the twists, suffice it to say, the book is paced to perfection, the characters are real in a way that few literary ideas ever are, and the story itself is gripping.

Five out of five stars indeed. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This book has been in my "to read" pile for a long time.


I had heard of, I had heard good things about it, I knew it was an important book in terms of literature and such....

Heck, I even referenced it in an article I wrote about a tree dedication a few years back.

But I had never read it.

What a mistake to wait!

This book was excellent. The writing style is classic, at once easy to read but full of gems of prose not often found in contemporary lit. The characters were well rounded and full of life. The description of New York in the 19-teens is beautifully done. It captures the mundane bits of everyday stuff that adds up to a life of memories and holds these fragile moments of time up to the light to be studied.

Yes, there is symbolism. Yes there is metaphor and prose that could be dissected in literature classes. But there is also a story, a compellingly simple story, of a girl growing up in Brooklyn and a more complicated story of the American dream acted out in perfection by the tragedies and achievements of her family.

Nestled in the stories of the family members, allagories and character sketches alike, are tiny chapters that shine like unexpected treasures.

Such as Chapter 22 in which Smith shows us Frannie growing up, discovering books but also showing us how her imagination still personifies numbers (making them into little families in her sums). The juxtaposition is perfectly balanced. Frannie, on the cusp of reading, a pastime which will shape her life, is still a little girl full of dreams and a child's sweet innocence. If there was a doubt in the reader's mind that Frannie is something special, a tree growing where no one expects it to and then thriving on the dirty concrete in a tenement yard, this chapter makes it crystal clear with examples that resonate with subtle meaning.

A triumph of literature, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. It is well worth the time (a bit long for some readers is isn't a book one would want to skim.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaleo Hosseini

This book, which could be seen as a companion read to The Kite Runner, is a masterpiece of plot, passion, and profound prose. The characters are deeply human and their struggles are heart breaking. Rarely do we see a story come full circle as this one does. Rarely do we get a chance to see into the hearts and minds of another culture in a way that does more to connect us than to create a sense of difference.... and that is how this novel shines, it bridges the connections of characters to the human experience, and it does so beautifully.

Not for the faint of heart, this novel tells of the plight of generations of women in Afghanistan. Be prepared for stomach clenching tension and frustrated tears at the injustice that is faced. 

But it is worth it, deeply worth it.I highly recommend this book. But have your tissues handy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
By Margaret Atwood

Profoundly crafted
Perfectly paced

This is a story of a dystopian future where we are no more than the sum of our parts and where the religious extremes are followed through to insane levels. It is compelling and haunting, full of nameless and socially named characters that will stay with you far past the final pages. And those final pages are essential. The "Afterword" adds so much to the story, it would be a travesty to skip it.

This book takes the notion of class, of gender, of rights vs privilege, of hierarchical systems, and of cultural xenophobia to some very frightening logical conclusions. It will make you think. It might give you nightmares. It is, understandably, one of the most important allegorical stories of our time.

The fact that it wasn't written in 2008 is shocking and a testament that there really is nothing new under the sun.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone... but especially those who like to think outside the box, who want to be challenged a bit in their beliefs, and who harbor a well placed mistrust of organized religions / systems.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Things Fall Apart

The titan of African literature, Chinua Achebe, has died at the age of 82. We know him as the writer of Things Fall Apart (although that was only his first book).

I read Things Fall Apart as part of my 501 Project / Goal.

But then I didn't write about it. I have no idea why. I remember reading it, I remember typing about it... I even remember a few turns of phrase that I used... but I can't seem to find a blog post about it anywhere... so let's blame internet gnomes and move on.

I really liked Things Fall Apart. It was a relatively quick read but it packed a wallop of an emotional punch. Published in the late 50s (and thus at the end of British colonial expansion) it tells the story of British colonial expansion in Nigeria through the eyes of not the colonist, but the African people who get colonized, namely a tribal leader named Okonkwo.

Not only is it a gripping foray into a part of history and a population that is often overlooked in both literature and politcs, but the story itself is well told and full of fascinating characters. 

Yes the book is significant because it humanizes the plight of the African people, but it is more than that... this glimps into the lives of the tribal people is at once a history lesson and a reminder that there are such things as universal human emotions: love, fear, greed, hope.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Read it for its cultural significance, read it for its well crafted pose, read it for the history lesson... but read it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

The title warns you: this is a book that is going to deal with big seriously depressing stuff.

And WHAM, right off the bat we jump into squalor and grime and a wrongly accursed youth afraid for his life, his ability to scratch out a living, and the the health and well being of his family.

On the surface, this is the book that follows a few of the inhabitants of an Indian slum but like the slum itself, that is just the surface. Really, this is a book about people struggling in a corrupt world, people acting out their baser instincts towards each other, and people overcoming their dismal situation

Or at the very least trying to make the best of a bad, very bad situation.

Boo's treatment of the inhabitants of the slum is interesting. She neither makes them into caricatures of themselves nor paints them as totally blameless angels... she shows us complicated people who's motivations are the same as those of us not living in slums even if their actions are different. It is a fascinating and perspective changing look at a portion of society that is at best ignored and at worst used for political traction.

I strongly recommend reading this book. Feel the weight of oppression  the kindle of revolution, the despair of life's traps and the hope shared by the children that someday things will get better.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

We picked this for book club.

Another WWII book.

Le Sigh

And yet...

Calling it another WWII book is wrong. Very very wrong.

Because that is oversimplifying it. Yes, the story takes place during World War Two, but the story is about more than that... it is about some of the people who played the accordion and loved and fought and cried and read and stole books while World War Two thundered down upon them and changed their lives forever.

I didn't want to read this book.

I didn't want to think about world wars, or dead Jews, or little girls hiding in basements while bombs dropped from the sky. I didn't want to cry when characters I loved died.... because you know that in a book set during World War Two, a book about a German girl living in Nazi Germany, a book narrated by Death himself.... when you read a book like this, you know that people are going to die. A lot of people.

And yet...

I am so glad I read this book.

I'm glad I pushed past the first chapter when the voice of Death as narrator being almost pretentiously literary threatened to drive me up a wall.  I'm glad I became swept up in the life of a little German girl who's love of reading leads to her stealing books. I'm glad I was introduced to her adoptive father who simply must be one of the best parents in all of literature. I'm glad I had an excuse to add a few choice German words to my vocabulary. I'm glad I got to watch Ruby play soccer and meet Max, the skin and bones Jew who lived in the basement and wrote stories on repainted pages of Mien Kampf.

The story is gripping, tragic, bittersweet, and unforgettable  The writing is crisp, literary, magical, and haunting. The pace is both quick enough to keep your attention and slow enough to build the drama of the unavoidable climax into a fervent tension... Death teases us with glimpses of the future as a way of at once warning us (giving our hearts time to harden) and making us quake with anticipation.

This is one of those up-all-night-reading-instead-of-sleeping books that will trouble your heart, challenge your mind, and enrich your life.

Don't be daunted by the length.

Read this book.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

This book has a video preview!

Clayton's novel about a sisterhood of housewives in Palto Alto California in the late 60s is everything a book about a sisterhood should be.

We have five different women who while being distinct enough that almost every female reader can find someone to identify with also have enough in common to make their eventual bonding not only believable but encouraged.

We have the end of the 60s and the turmoil of the US in terms of Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and the world at large changing.

We have the theme of empowerment that ties the Miss america pageant into the quest for self expression and drive.

We have a shared dream that is illustrated in a variety of ways... but is no less powerful for being done differently  (This, is perhaps my favorite bit about this book... the focus is following your dream, not anyone else's  So what if your dream is to write something no one else might ever see.... if your goal was to write it and you did, then you succeeded!)

We have female bonding over typical "female" issues of children, marriage, etc... and then we have female bonding through cancer. Through it all we have the focus being on the bonding itself andthe challenges play second fiddle to the strength that the women find in each other.

If the ending is a bit cavity inducing, well we can forgive it because sometimes, even in the midst of drama or turmoil, we cna find a moment to laugh with our friends and in that freeze frame second, we are living in someone's happily ever after.

Clayton does a great job of bringing five different women to life and making each one someone to root for. All in all, the book is a quick read with messages of hope, perseverance , and above all, the importance of close friendships, a funny and mostly light hearted read that is well worth the time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jennifer Government

Jennifer Government by Max Barry

This book takes place in the not too distant future where the government has been privatized and people (even children) take on the last name of their employer/school. Yes, it is satire. Yes it deals with with globalization and marketing craziness... such as Nike hiring a hit man to kill the first person to buy their new shoes as a way of making the shoes desirable... but thankfully it goes beyond the shtick and tells the story of the people living in this semi dystopian world; namely single mom and government agent Jennifer Government and struggling villain turned hero Hack Nike.

I loved it.

Witty, sharp, poignant, and short this book has everything you want in a speculative fiction novel; compelling unforgettable characters, dark humor coupled with sobering realities, and a perfect ending.

One of those books that will stay with you and inspire rereading long after completion, this book is not to be missed.

I highly recommend it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Perks of Being a Wallflower: Movie

I wrote a review for Perks of Being a Wallflower in which I gushed about it... because really, it is a very well written book.

And then I saw the movie... as one does when one likes the book and has a major crush on the actress in the movie adaptation.


Adaptations are always hard because if you loved the book you are bound to find something you hate about the movie even if that something is that no one looks the way you had imagined.

(I had it easy, my copy of the book was released after the movie was in the works so everyone looked exactly they way I had pictured them.)

A wise woman once said that comparing books to movies is like comparing fresh apples to apple pie. They are both apple in taste, but one has gone through remarkable transformation and is something altogether different. And sometimes, despite you love for apple pie… you crave an apple pure. They are different things and should be treated as such.

Well ok then... you know I lied the book (and if you need a refresher, here's my review.)

What about the movie?

The Movie on its own merits.

- Well done! The pacing is smooth, the drama is gripping, the character development is pristine!

- The acting was superb!

- The use of flashbacks was a bit awkward, but the lead up to the climax was very well shot and executed.

- Marvelous story, we really feel for Charlie and his desire to fit in and stay connected to his friends.


The Movie in terms of being an adaptation of the book

- Great use of music.... they kept the spirit of the times with the needed modernization .. ie, they didn't bring it into today's world but let it stay where it needed to be with the right amount of emphasis placed on the indie bands.

... but they made changes (how could they not?). I guess I am disappointed in the changes because they seemed to be unnecessary and to change, in small ways, the overall feel of the story.

- They took out almost all of the family stuff... and while that is understandable  it is disappointing  The scenes with Charlie's father and the MASH episode, the story arc of his bonding with his sister.. these are elements that made the story more than just a coming of age story like so many others.

- A subtle change, but one worth noting: Early in the book Sam tells Charlie to not fall in love with her... and so he tries not to. This results in him not chasing her, not asking her out etc. Towards the end, Sam asks him why he never pursued her and he reminds her of what she told him... and this worked on a few different levels. It showed us how Charlie is so literal, it showed us that he was so determined to maintain that relationship that he never acted on feelings even when the situation had changed and it might have been okay to do so. In the movie, which lacked the early instruction from Sam, his inability to ask her out is painted as more of shortcoming, a social awkwardness, a failing on his part to "get" that she might have been interested in him rather than a intentional choice on his part to respect her wishes.

- Which leads us to another Sam and Charlie change.. in the movie he helps her with her studies which leads to her getting to go to college... and this dramatically changes how they relate to one another. He helps her academically and she helps him socially .. and while it isn't done as a quid pro quo thing, the elements are there  In the book, Sam likes him and includes him into her circle of friends for not other reason than she likes him and wants to include him.

- The sex.  In the book, Charlie and Sam don't have sex. In the movie it is strongly implied that they do.  This is a huge difference as the lack of sex (but the sexual touching) in the book is the catalyst for Charlie's breakdown and the book's climax... where Charlie learns about his past.  Changing that changes the breakdown to be one stemming from guilt or from seeing her drive away... not brought on by the sexual touching... and if it isn't a PTSD moment of panic that leads Charlie to realize his own abuse but rather the loss of a friend and romantic interest that gets him to that dark place, well, that is a loss as well because it siply isn't as powerful.

All in all the movie was well done and had I not read and loved the book as much as I did, I would probably have enjoyed it more.

However... I would advise the reading of the book and the skipping of the movie because in the end, the elements that made the book so well done are important enough to warrant the extra time of reading rather than watching. And, like I said before, the book is an incredibly quick read.

There you have it... read the book... (maybe while listening to the soundtrack from the movie). You won't be sorry.


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

A Chick-Lit with enough heart and mystery to overcome its almost cavity inducing sweetness and light.

The Peach Keeper is the story of women... old women, young women, women from a forgotten time, women of today... women who hate each other and women who would go to the ends of the Earth to protect each other. In short, this book is about the bonds that women can form when they decide to stop competing with one another and work together.

What worked:
 - The perspective change between the two leading ladies. While the author's voice didn't change, she never left you in doubt of who's part of the adventure you were seeing.

- The build up of the mystery and eventual conclusion.

- The supporting cast of characters, most notably the character of Rachel who really deserved her own book.

What didn't work... at least for me.
- The Rom/Com pairing off of couples. As soon as our cast of characters had all been introduced, two men and two women, the thought of a double date and living happily ever after was not just obvious, it was a forgone conclusion that sapped a bit of the tension from the story.

- The injection of the supernatural. Yeah, it's a pet peeve, but supernatural stuff always takes me a bit out of the story especially when it is introduced rather late in the game. It simply wasn't needed to tell the story.

- The "is he or isn't he" in regards to the sexual orientation of a character. For goodness sake people, just ask.  (But wait, you might be saying... isn't it rude to ask if someone is gay? No. Asking because you are curious is rude. But if you want to sleep with / fall in love with the person, then it is not only not at all rude, it is sort of a necessary step in determining comparability.  And he was part of the little happy foursome mentioned above... so the only person who didn't know he was into the woman was the woman herself, which was just annoying.

*Ok... another pet peeve... she has a laundry list of reasons she thinks he is gay but never EVER considers the possibility that he is bi. So.. yeah.. she saw him kissing another boy back in high school. I'm sorry to burst your bubble but high school sexual explorations does not equal sexual orientation... and even if he was madly in love with the boy in high school that doesn't mean that he couldn't also be madly in love with her... because, again, he might be bi. A mystery easily solved by asking.



But besides all that, the book was a quick read and I enjoyed the fact that though the two main women characters where set to be rivals, at least in the beginning  the author managed to make them both fully rounded out and sympathetic.  She didn't cut corners and make the rich perfect girl all evil or the more plain Jane character the heroine. I appreciated that.

So.. worth reading for sure... in fact if you need a book for the beach or the plane, consider this one a perfect fit.  Yes it is chick-lit (with all the pros and cons that entails) but it is full of heart, has a good message, and was well written.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I really enjoyed this book!

Perks is a coming of age story that focuses on the tapestry of the coming of age experience rather than the introspective focus that is often found in such tales.

The story isn't just about Charlie and his first year of high school, it is about his friends going through their final year of high school, about his sister going through a personal struggle that will define her for the rest of her life, and about a single moment in time that will never come again.

But mostly, yes, the book is about a wallflower named Charlie.

Charlie is special... today we would probably put him on the autism spectrum (although more in the Asperger's Syndrome end) and there is something else as well.. something dark that lies just below the surface, something that leads Charlie to have panic attacks and to be unable to stop crying.

There are some beautiful moments in this book, moments that resonate past the pages of cliche high school troupes and predictable love triangles. Moments when Charlie's ability to see the truth of  the situation because he is somewhat removed, because he is the wallflower are so expertly written by Chbosky that you want to break down and cry.

In the end, that is the greatest perk... and through Chbosky's use of the narrative structure of letters, we are able to capitalize on that perk as well.

By communicating with the reader through letters simply addressed to "Friend" we are both a part of the story and a spectator as well, unable to interact with the drama that is unfolding. We, the audience, become the quintessential wallflowers ourselves with all the perks that being so entails... perks like being able to see a bigger wider frame of the big picture.

And like Charlie we have the disadvantages of being an outsider... for even though Charlie is reaching out through his letters to "friend" the reader is powerless to stop the oncoming train of drama and disappointment  In the same way, Charlie is powerless to stop the wheels of time from moving... he must face the reality that when one is a freshman and all one's friends are seniors, one is going to have to start all over again.

The book is surprisingly deep for being so short, surprisingly fresh for being a few years old, and surprisingly profound for being considered a "young adult" novel.

I highly recommend it!

... There's just this one thing....

(And really it has nothing to do with the writing, I'm guessing ti was a publishing decision, but there is an epilogue that is not only extremely long for an epilogue  but is also vital to the story. It is more of the last chapter than the epilogue .. without it we would have been left at the climax instead of being allowed the falling action and conclusion.

But otherwise, this was an excellent read!